Laser Light chief Hannon has key role in advancing high-tech growth in region

By Buck Collier
Editor Hermann Advertiser-Courier
November 9, 2016

Laser Light chief Frank Hannon is hoping to spark more interest among area students about high-tech development and he’s doing it as part of a regional effort. Laser Light, located in Hermann’s Industrial Park, is a precision manufacturer of medical devices and other products. It’s also looking for different products to produce using high-technology equipment.

Hannon is hoping he can cultivate new products as well as nurture an interest in high-tech machinery among area young people, by being one of several “founding partners” of TechShop in St. Louis City.

Located on Forest Park Avenue, TechShop is a community based workshop and “prototyping studio,” which is another way of saying it’s a center for the startup of new companies.

Not only are the high-tech equipment pieces used in making things, they also are used as teaching tools.

TechShop creators say their mission is to democratize access to the tools of innovation — make the high-tech tools available to a lot of people.

As a founding partner, Hannon and Laser Light are part of an elite group — other founding partners include Monsanto, the Donald Danforth Plant Science Center, DuPont, and colleges Washington University, UMSL and St. Louis University.

TechShop, part of a national organization, began its St. Louis operation in late summer. “They were soliciting tech-related companies to be partners with them,” Hannon told The Hermann Advertiser-Courier last week. They were looking for eight partners to begin with. Laser Light was quick to accept.

“I realized there were some good synergies there with Laser Light,” he said.

In addition to any good feelings of helping promote high-tech knowledge, the partnership might also help Hannon in his search for new products.

The founding partners receive exposure through TechShop promotions, its website and so forth.
As for helping educate local students about high-tech equipment, Hannon donated memberships to TechShop to The Fulton School in St. Albans in Franklin County and Hermann High School.

The Fulton School already has four students signed up to attend sessions at TechShop.
Hermann High School Principal Gary Leimkuehler said efforts are being made now to match a faculty sponsor with students interested in spending time at TechShop.

Hannan said his involvement with TechShop was rewarded with the reception he received from the students who have attended sessions there. “It was extremely rewarding to see those kids . . . they were so appreciative and so grateful,” he said.

“That really impacts you,” he added, “and that’s why I’m doing this.”

He said he hopes that if local students with an interest in science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) can get exposure to the latest equipment at places like TechShop, that will go a long way to developing a local workforce for companies like Laser Light.

“Maybe I can hire a couple of those kids after they graduate,” Hannon said.

Hannon’s involvement with TechShop and the potential of hiring local young people at Laser Light appear to be in line with the goal of the Hermann Regional Economic Development Corporation (HRED) — to help develop well-paying jobs for HHS graduates so they can stay here and have children who would attend Hermann schools, rather than venture to another region to work and have a family.

TechShop is the latest development that has Metro St. Louis being counted among the top spots in the nation for high-tech startups. No longer is Silicon Valley or Seattle grabbing all the attention for high-tech development.

“It’s quickly becoming one of the dominant start-up cities,” Hannon Said. “I’d say it’s one of the Top 3 in the country. It’s making progress every day,” he said.